Cast & Crew
Two inept detectives are hired to guard the judge in this silent short film.
Charles A. Bachman
Do Detectives Think?
Finkleberry is a lanky fellow with a slack posture and dead eyes. Sherlock is a pompous and officious man with a full belly and a Chaplinesque toothbrush moustache. Both men are dressed in trim gray suits that just barely don't fit them properly, and matching bowler hats.
Merely the sight of these two inspires laughter in audiences today. The premise may not sound too comic, but no worries--this is a Laurel and Hardy film. We know what kind of slapstick havoc is due.
But when Do Detectives Think? first appeared in 1927, there was no such thing as a Laurel and Hardy film. Such a thing had never really existed before--this is where that story begins.
Some film historians may choose to quibble with that statement. The are professional film scholars who have made it their life's work to study the evolution of solo work by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy into the most famous comedy partnership of all time.
Some might point to the short film Duck Soup (1927) as the seminal Laurel and Hardy prototype. Certainly Stan felt that picture was consistent with their later work, and remade it years later as Another Fine Mess (1930). But Duck Soup presents a startlingly raw and rough version of Stan and Ollie. It is a wilder form of slapstick than that which they--and their studio Hal Roach--would typically make. Consider Duck Soup a trial prototype, a proof-of-concept.
But if you are looking for that point in time in which Stan and Ollie were officially paired as a duo by Hal Roach Studios in an ongoing series of comedy shorts in which they performed more or less the style of comedy for which they would become beloved, in more or less the characters that would make them rich, in the costumes that would become iconic--look no further than Do Detectives Think?
Much of the Laurel and Hardy formula is already in place here. Ollie bosses Stan around, Stan resorts to sudden-onset crying jags and is prone to eating at inopportune moments. Most notably, the two swap hats--repeatedly. This would become a signature joke for the boys, and a sign of what made them special. There is nothing inherently funny about wearing somebody else's hat--at least not as far as adult sensibilities are concerned. Maybe you could entertain a newborn baby by putting on the wrong hat, but just try going into a talent agency today and explaining that you have an act built around swapping virtually identical hats with the person standing next to you. Laurel and Hardy once made a whole film out of this.
They were the alchemists of the comedy world: Laurel and Hardy could turn anything into comedy gold.
Producer: Hal Roach
Director: Fred Guiol
Screenplay: Hal Roach; H.M. Walker (titles)
Cast: Stan Laurel (Ferdinand Finkleberry), Oliver Hardy (Sherlock Pinkham), James Finlayson (Judge Foozle), Viola Richard (Mrs. Foozle), Noah Young (The Tipton Slasher), Frank Brownlee (Detective agency boss), Charles A. Bachman (Officer, uncredited), Wilson Benge (Butler attacked by Slasher, uncredited), Will Stanton (Killer's pal, uncredited), Charley Young (Juror, uncredited).
by David Kalat
Simon Louvish, Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy.
Leonard Maltin, The Great Movie Comedians.
Walter Kerr, The Silent Clowns.